March 16, 2000

And now down to business: Alistair Campbell's tour diary

We arrived on the island of Grenada, which was everything you've seen in pictures and more. It was our home for the first week and the venue for our first warm-up game.

We stayed in the Rex Grenadian, a hotel right on the beach, and thanks to a bit of jet-lag mixed with an eagerness to experience the Caribbean sea, the boys were in the water very early in the morning -- it was lovely.

Our first practice was an experience and a sign of things to come. The practice facilities are not very good -- one centre wicket and a very bumpy outfield. Our session therefore lasted about four hours, but that was not all, not by a long shot. John Bryceland, our trainer, decided we should run back to the hotel, but he had miscalculated the distance by 7km so we ended up running 12km! To say the troops were exhausted would be the understatement of the year.

The ground itself was very new and government-funded, which the locals said was a very shrewd move by the Grenadian prime minister as it will keep him in power for another five years! The game itself was very dull but a good run around for the guys. One thing that surprised us was the wicket. We expected fast bouncy ones, but this was a more subcontinent-like wicket, very slow and low. However, we weren't complaining, as their 6ft 7in fast bowlers could not get it above waist height.

After the game it was time for an evening off and a few rum punches and carib beers, a few guys even taking time out to partake in limbo dancing. I think we need to get a little more supple if we are to take on the locals.

Off to Trinidad for our second week, and The Management were forced to give us another day off as the carnival was in town, the second biggest only to Rio but, according to the Trinis, slightly better. It was magnificent with all the music, dancing girls in wonderful costumes, and the general mayhem. Although sounding like a party place, this was also the venue for our second warm-up match, which also ended in a draw -- but, again, some valuable match practice was gained.

The ground we played at, Guaracara Park at Pointe-à-Pierre, was in the middle of an oil refinery which also abounded in natural gas. The sulphur smell from this place was gut-wrenching but fortunately there was a steady wind all the time to make it bearable; those reading this who have been to Rotorua in New Zealand will know what I'm talking about.

Now for the business part of the tour, the Test matches. The venue for the first Test, Queens Park Oval, is in the heart of Trinidad. The worrying thing, not for us, is that there are no Trinis in the side for the first Test so there may not be as many people in the ground. However, I am sure they will still have more supporters than we have in this part of the world. With Brian Lara missing, the task at hand is only a little less daunting. Both teams have much to play for, one trying to regain respect and the other trying to gain it.

Time will tell ...

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